Posted by: deadmousediaries | October 31, 2012

News from the PVH, Episode #55 – Closed for Restoration

It’s a good news/bad news kind of week. We lost 13 big hardwoods during Hurricane Sandy ( and our electric and our phone/Internet). The great news is, only one of those trees came down on the roof of the Path Valley Hotel. Although we will be closed for a bit for restoration,  everyone here is so grateful for the way our community escaped true devastation. My newspaper column ran today and I thought I’d like to share it here in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. I titled it “The Best Bad Luck.”

After putting all this distance between me and the rat race over the past months, I had forgotten there is a 6:30 in the morning, too. Whose idea is it to hold meetings at 7:30 on a Monday morning??? When I woke up in the dark, I paused for just a moment to grouse about another cold, rainy day that requires fueling my furnace with liquid-gold and propels my electric meter into warp speed.

Then it hit me; everything in my house was working. Cat fuzz floated joyously across the hardwoods because the furnace was creating air currents. The toilet bowl continued to swirl hypnotically until I jiggled the handle because clean water was flowing out of our plumbing. And more importantly, when I woke up, my stone house was still standing where I had left it parked at bedtime.

It’s easy to take those things for granted– until you see worldwide news clips. I paused for a moment to appreciate the best bad luck that comes my way.

One of my writing assignments in the middle of my career was to cover the flooding of a small Pennsylvania town. Three people had been swept away when the creek went wild down the mountain and crashed through the community. Three people had been lost, not hundreds. A few homes had been destroyed and a few more had been moved off their foundations. I remember the look and the smell of that neighborhood as people there shoveled and bulldozed and tried to make sense of their losses. It was a major disaster on a miniature scale, Godzilla on a rampage across Lilliput.

It’s hard for us to assimilate that kind of destruction as reality as we sit in a place where our own leaking roof or wet basement constitutes a personal disaster. We take in an eight-second TV sound bite before flipping the channels. It’s just too overwhelming.

If I look at the mass, I will never act,” said Mother Theresa. ” If I look at the one, I will.”‘

Sociologists have observed interesting behaviors in times of crisis. Although we can often see ways to help “the one”, the plight of many makes us feel powerless. We become numb to needy masses and we act – or rather, don’t act –accordingly.

We also have a problem helping “the one” at times, it seems. A phenomenon called the “bystander effect” documents that it’s less likely for individuals to offer any means of help in an emergency situation when many others are present as well. Bystanders often fail to aid a victim of violent crime by calling police, for example, because they believe someone else has already reported it.

But the behavioral news is not all bad. An initiative called couchsurfing is emerging as an innovative way to help “the one”; it represents tradition with a twist. Originally promoted as a return to ancient practices of providing hospitality for travelers, is a web-based, global, non-profit. It’s core service is designed to help travelers find free accommodations worldwide –if they are willing to sleep on a couch.  Reports indicate there are nearly a million members representing 220 countries already subscribing and media interest in it has launched it into the realm of a social movement.

   Couchsurfing sounds likes a wonderful alternative to a great many situations: families stranded by blizzards, travelers trapped at airports. residents misplaced by Hurricane Sandy. I don’t think my couch can help anyone on the Jersey shore at this moment any more than all the leftover brussel sprouts I chased around my plate in the Sixties could have helped starving children in China. But I bet I can write a check.

When my car breaks down but hasn’t floated away and my faucet drips, but the water is pure, I will  pause to be grateful. And if you found your house parked where you left it this morning, simply say ‘thank you’ to whatever power you believe is responsible for your best bad luck. And take time to call your mother.



  1. Hoping the PVH can be repaired and restored. We have been counting our blessings and truly humbled by no loss of property or life or pets. In times such as this, it is difficult for me to wrap my head around such loss. Hoping and praying for those affected and those helping. And, wishing all things good to you and yours.

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